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MERS slowdown improves sentiment in S. Korea

2015/06/28 20:06

SEOUL, June 28 (Yonhap) -- Panic over the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea appeared to be waning as people are increasingly going back to their normal lives with no additional cases being reported over the weekend, analysts said Sunday.

The number of people diagnosed with MERS stood at 182 for two days, while 91 were discharged from hospitals after complete recoveries and about 13,000 have been lifted from isolation for suspected infection as of Sunday.

Weeks after shunning populated areas in fear of the contagious disease, people flocked to popular mountains and beaches and went shopping over the weekend.

Major highways had traffic jams, with 4.24 million vehicles passing through toll gates across the nation on Saturday, a similar level of traffic volume from a year ago, according to the state highway operator.

"Starting this week, the traffic volume has recovered to levels similar to last year," an official at the Korea Expressway Corporation said. "As the MERS outbreak has slowed, more people are going out during the summer season."

  

Cars are stuck in a traffic jam on a highway in southern Seoul. (Yonhap file photo) Cars are stuck in a traffic jam on a highway in southern Seoul. (Yonhap file photo)

While fears among South Koreans have increasingly eased, sentiment still remains tepid among foreign visitors more than a month after the first outbreak, especially Chinese, who experienced an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

The MERS outbreak has dealt a harsh blow to the local tourism and retail industries over the past month, which have been scrambling to attract more Chinese travelers this year amid lukewarm domestic consumption.

The Chinese are South Korea's biggest tourist group, with the number of travelers from the nation surpassing 6 million for the first time in 2014.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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